Let’s get one thing straight, the history of F1 is littered with manufacturers’ ‘works’ teams running an ‘A’ spec engine whilst their customers get a lesser performing alternative.
In 1993, McLaren were forced to run a ‘B’ spec Ford engine that had 35 HP less than the works Ford engine provided to Benetton which in turn had 45 HP less than the Renault powered Williams.
However, during the V8 era following engine homologation regulations, this practice became less prevalent and those watching the racing could be confident the cars with all Renault engines had the same basic power unit to propel them around the circuit.
Of course, this era saw the intensification of precise engine mapping, and though the architecture of the power unit could be identical from team to team, the engine mapping was not.
Significant performance gains could be found through this process, as Red Bull proved with their world beating partner Renault.
This year, Manor are running a ‘B’ spec Ferrari engine, allegedly the homologated version Maranello used for the entire 2014 season. For a team whose budget is tight, this offers a more cost effective option than running the latest engine spec.
This again is nothing new. Ferrari had for years offered previous year spec engines to customers. From 1997 to 2005, Sauber ran power units badged as ‘Petronas’ and in 2001 Prost did something similar with an ‘Acer’ engine originating from Maranello.
There was clearly some discussion in a recent F1 strategy group over the whole ‘B’ spec engine philosophy, couched as a cost saving measure.
Yet not everyone is happy with the return of ‘B’ spec engines.
Saubers Team Principal gave her thoughts on the matter, prior to the Singapore GP. “Ideally I don’t think you should have an option like this,” said Monisha Kaltenborn.
“We are trying to get people together and not creating an environment when you end up with A and B cars.
“It’s in a way distorting a little bit the competition or creating a competition in the competition. It’s not ideal.”
For Monza, Mercedes launched an upgraded engine using the final 7 development tokens they have for 2015. This was exclusive to their own cars and not offered to their customers.
Williams’ head of performance, Rob Smedley commented at the time, “Obviously the works Mercedes team has had a power unit upgrade which we would dearly love in the back of our car as well.
“That seems to have been a good step – Lewis was certainly going very quickly.
“We’ve got a new power unit to take before the end of the year.
The hope was clearly that they would be able to put the new development engine in the Williams car at the point when their drivers took their fourth and final engines for the year.
This weekend, the 6 Mercedes powered drivers who have not taken their fourth power unit – will do so. Rosberg and Hulkenberg have already fitted their fourth for the year.
But the news is that the customer drivers will not be getting the new spec engine Mercedes has run since Monza.
Apparently, Mercedes have been unable to produce enough parts to supply their customers with the upgraded version of their 2015 power unit.
Lewis Hamilton will be using “a fresh version of the ‘phase four’ development engine” introduced in Monza, according to Autosport.
Valtteri Bottas does not see any hidden agenda’s in the Mercedes decision. “It’s not frustrating because I really think that they would give us the best possible engine to try and beat Ferrari.
“There must be some reason behind it. I don’t know whether it’s reliability or what. But I trust them.